Is Your Nonprofit Too Old To Barf Rainbows on Snapchat? | Beth's Blog

Is Your Nonprofit Too Old To Barf Rainbows on Snapchat?

Digital Strategy


SnapChat has been around for a few years, but I have not focused on it because as a babyboomer I’m not the target demographic.   Snapchat is a mobile app that lets users exchange text messages, photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours.   This is called disposable media.  Snapchat users share “snaps” or micro moments of their lives privately with a their friends, or as “stories” with their followers.

The app gained traction as a sexting app, a communications platform for teens to exchange naughty photos without getting caught by their parents because the content would be automatically deleted shortly after it was sent.    Snapchat is appealing, perhaps, because it appeals to our inner voyeur to live vicariously through someone else’s experience or in this case social stream.   And, if VR is the next big wave of tech, Snapchat might be ride that wave too.

I started to pay attention when my kids became teenagers — and wanting to practice good digital parenting as  Alexandra Samuel advises – I added the SnapChat app to my phone.  My first experience was “What?” and could not figure it out. The puzzling feeling reminded me of my first experience on Twitter ten years ago and that made me feel old.Plus, it takes more patience than doing Sudoku to figure out and use regularly, although it is a snap for 14 year olds.

The experts say that if you are over 24, you will not get it — and so I was relieved that it was SnapChat, not me and that my technical skills had suddenly disappeared like a snap.    Thank god there are teenage YouTube celebrities who share excellent SnapChat tutorials like Aaron’s Break the Internet.   If I were his mother, and I’m probably old enough to be his mother, I’d be proud!

So, why another social network, especially one where the focus is to create content, not consume and the culture of it is rather secretive?   As this Snap Chat 101 for business people in the Wall Street Journal points out, “Facebook is for major life updates. (Your friend from third grade just had her 10th baby!) Twitter is for keeping up with news and live events. ( Taylor Swift released a new video…again.) Instagram is for jealousy-inducing photos. (Bora Bora is beautiful; your cubicle is not.) Snapchat is for bearing witness—telling stories in raw, often humorous, behind-the-scenes clips or messages.”

Nonprofits and SnapChat

Several years ago,  I noticed that DoSomething.Org was actively experimenting on SnapChat.  I waited to see if other nonprofits would embrace this emerging social media platform.  TechSoup wrote up this post based on some very early innovators in 2013, but still only a handful of nonprofits had established a presence.   In the last six months, as SnapChat hype has escalated, the list of early adopter nonprofits has started grow, it isn’t huge yet.    But as John Haydon points out, the nonprofits that are using it are very creative and here’s five nonprofits that are simply killing it on snapchat.


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I started to notice a few nonprofits adding their Snapcodes  to their social media streams, inviting their audiences to follow them.  For example, I noticed this in One Campaign’s Instagram Feed and started following them.  The stories they were snapping were from a youth summit — a behind scenes look, selfies, and loaded with emoji.


Another example is the Atlanta Symphony which is trying to entice younger people into the concert hall with behind the scenes snaps.  Made me wonder if I attended a concert by the Symphony if I would see less of a sea of gray hair or not.


The Annenberg Foundation has been sharing snaps from behind the scenes at its leadership conference.

So, this gets to the question of whether your nonprofit needs to be on SnapChat or not?  Does your nonprofit need to be on an emerging social media channel beyond Facebook and Twitter?   But before you do anything, take this advice from Laura Girardin about brave experiments with emerging social media.


If you are targeting Gen Z and Millennials and you have someone on staff who speaks emoji as a first language,  set up a small pilot and test on SnapChat using Laura’s steps.   There’s lots of tutorials, but here is a good starter guide with some great  suggestions.   Think about how you can give a behind the scenes view of your organization, perhaps at an event.   Be sure to promote your SnapChat on other social channels.

Is your nonprofit experimenting with SnapChat or other emerging social media channel?  What have you learned?

17 Responses

  1. Jenny Levine says:

    One of my favorite Snapchat accounts (and the only org I follow) is LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art. They totally get how to use the service.

  2. Beth says:

    Jenny, will check them out

  3. charity: water and Unicef both have excellent Snapchat accounts as well!

  4. Thank you for this post. It has inspired several ideas that I’m going to implement into our digital strategy.

  5. Beth says:

    John, let me know what you decide to do.

  6. Beth says:

    Andrew, thanks for the tip

  7. […] Beth Kanter asks that age-old question, Is Your Nonprofit Too Old To Barf Rainbows on Snapchat? […]

  8. Abdallah says:

    I have never been a fan of snap chat, for me it is the typical social media application that encourages people to instead of enjoying the moment they capture it to show it for people who don’t care.

  9. Elona Shishelovskaya says:

    Snapchat is an emerging social media platform that can be used as a platform to promote PR and achieve success. Even though it may seem it cant be useful as it cannot be shared after 24hours, the goal of social media is to get conversations started and going, it is important to keep your brand on noticed on all social platforms,.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Not a fan of Snapchat myself, I think it really is geared to the very much younger generation. Having said that, enjoyed reading your article

  11. Nice article, Beth!

    We haven’t utilized Snapchat yet for Aplos. We’re keeping our eye on it though!

  12. Erika Angel says:

    I think its a great idea for a nonprofit to be on snapchat. I love snapchat because it allows your audience to follow what you are up to real time which creates a feeling of closeness. Snapchat forces people to keep a constant eye on whats going on in fear of missing something that will be cleared in 24hrs. Unlike other social media platforms where your audience can check out your page once a month and not worry about missing out on anything. I think because of that snapchat can also create a higher engagement percentage.

  13. Diana says:

    It is very hard for me to determine a/my non-profit organisation should be on snapchat. 1) Our established market group meddle age is 55 so if no one over 24 nows about snapchat… = No! 2. Frequency of post probably not everyday as the content comes from organisations events or meeting + snap disappears after 24h = No! 3. But do we want to reach a new audience + younger than 24 + snapchats growing popularity = Join now to get new audience? That is the question!
    Summary: Very interesting article and pointers to follow up on, will definitely keep an eye out. Thank you!

  14. Will Fanguy says:

    Insightful and engaging! It’s important to be able to create and edit content for all demographics, and Snapchat can certainly help. Thanks for addressing some of the mystery that surrounds the platform!

  15. So many good content ideas in here. This tends to be where lots of nonprofits fall short when it comes to Snapchat.

    We’ve gathered up case studies and a whole range of advice in our free 30-page Snapchat for Charities eBook:

  16. Beth says:


    Thanks for sharing these examples and your e-book for charities.


  17. […] Make a personal account, follow those five orgs, and see how they do it. That’s exactly how Beth Kanter got started when she saw some “Snapcodes” (those yellow boxes above you use to follow people) […]

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